Thursday, March 17, 2011

2 Things of Significance


It really gets harder and harder to think about things to write about. I'm sure there are a million things i could describe or go through, but some of the time it will end up making my company look negative or me look slightly dodgy, even if this is not the case, so i avoid mentioning things in that manner.

However the first thing of significance. I 'almost' had my first engine failure, shutdown, emergency blah blah whatever you want to call it last week. I was flying a C402c for the first time in a while. I was doing the standard overflow from the Metro down to Pork Keats, and had 5 people on board. It was not a heavy payload at all, and i only had 800 pound of fuel on board. As i advanced the throttles forward, there was definately something that felt odd in the right engine, but i didn't recognise it as a safety issue, as i still had full power on the gauges, the engine gauge indications were normal and i had not flown a C402c in nearly 3 months!

As i rotated the aeroplane climbed normally and with full power there was a bit of vibration, but again, i kept putting it down to that i was not familiar with a C402, figured as a reduced power it would go away, and that maybe the props weren't as synced as they could be. As i reduced the power and synced the props, the vibrations were becoming worse and worse and all of a sudden it felt like there was a problem. I was climbing through around 2000ft at this point on a heading of 250 after take off from Darwin 29. I suddenly thought that maybe there was too much fuel going into the engine and tried leaning it a tad. Bad choice! The engine coughed and spluttered and i felt the yawing in the airframe and the engine decided it did not want to spin. As i put the fuel pumps on, and put the mixture back to full, it started spinning again, although the vibrations were extreme at this point, to the point where the control column was shaking and moving back and forth a centimetre or two, reasonably violent.

At this point i was 2,500ft and requested return to Darwin, ops normal, but with possible engine trouble. Even as i was reducing power for landing, and slowing the plane for landing configuration, the vibrations continued, and possibly got worse (but that just may have been my nerves at this point!) I made a landing without any real concern and taxiied back to base. Although the maintenance guys ran it up, they couldn't fault it on the ground, and i realised the issue had been raised in the previous 3 days that the plane had been experiencing similar problems. After they pull parts of the engine out, it was discovered that a few the fuel injectors on the right engine were blocked. I had to fly the same plane empty down to Tindal that afternoon and was extremely jumpy about it  as you can imagine. It was really bad weather on departure (well the entire flight was pretty bad due weather, storms everywhere - whent he inbound Qantas 737's are doing 180 degree turns to avoid the storms) but everything was normal and the plane operated fine after they replaced the injectors. 

The other part of significance, is i finally got my 100 hours of night command, and can finally get my ATPL license. The min requirements for an Australian ATPL license is 1500TT where 250 has to be command, i think the rest can be ICUS or co-pilot, and 750 needs to be in a VH registered aircraft. It also required 75 hours in IMC, and 100 hours night command, ICUS or co-pilot. I had the other requirements for a long time, but getting night in the top-end charter business is not easy. There are no night contracts really, and the one that we have is on a Metroliner. The C441 do a bit of night doing charter work from time to time, same as the Barons. But the C404 rarely does any night charters. But luckily, due to a late arriving aircraft, and then another return to Darwin due passenger request, we ended up being nearly 2 hours late for the job. So when he finally completed the job it was on last light, and i was able to depart for the 300nm leg home at night. So pretty happy.

Im very, VERY close to turning a new page in my aviation career, but no news on a start date as yet!

Thanks for reading.


  1. Nice one on qualifying for the ATPL. Is there a formal application process and someone signing off on hours... ?

    Anyhow, well done, and thanks for the blog posts.

  2. Mike, you are funny.
    You say you lack inspiration and then you write this awesome post!
    I like your blog a lot, you're doing just the kind of flying I always wanted to do.
    We'll see where I end up in the future.

    Great post!

  3. Mike, Thanks for writing.

    Flying an airplane for money seems to me a strange amalgam of disciplines--systems management, motor skills, business, planning, weather, and where-am-I-going-to-get-a-bite-to-eat-at-this-hour. Any one of these is simple, but put them all together at the same job and it can get interesting.

    Some... or at least one... of your readers is a systems geek, and would love posts about the-this-connects-to-the-that-and-that's-why-you-can't-deploy-the-froozit-sometimes. Like your engine posts, right? You can't get too technical for us--it just gives us something to ask questions about. More fun for all!

  4. Good post and congrats on the ATPL Mike! And just when you thought you'd gotten away from the hazards of GA... haha. Glad all turned out safely though!

  5. Congrats on the A's Mike. Here in Canada I believe the night requirement is only 25 Hours Night XC, PIC. ( I'm going off two-year-old memorized info from my commercial license studies, so could be mistaken ) Even then, everyone still warns all the student pilots to pack in those night hours during training as many get stuck on the 25....

    Just working on my multi rating now and can appreciate your engine failure woes...for some reason, one of my bloody engines seems to fail on every flight.. ;)

    In the airplane I can usually get it under control without too much drama, but the sim is kicking my %^&# on failures in IMC...

    I know what you mean by the company-blogging conundrum...all the best stuff is usually so identifying that I'm hesitant to post about it.
    Thanks for the continued posting!

  6. Mike, I just found your blog and this is the first post that I've read. I DARN good one, but I am surpized that no one has mentioned the IMPORTANT Safety Lesson that you learned. (OK, I'm a Safety Nut, especially for modest-hour commercial pilots.) As you relate the story, I find SEVERAL missed opportunities to either stay on the ground or return to ground sooner than you did. I can imagine that there were a few more 'hints' that have slipped you mind. In the most simple terms, if anything makes you question anything, stay on the ground until the concerns are resolved. Not taking off is NEVER a bad idea. I also have to wonder about the climb from 2000 to 2500. You knew there was a problem at 2000, but... Nuff said. You fixed your problem and learned an important lesson. Completing the take-off procedure with one engine is something that you are well trained to do. Having to actually DO IT, when there were alternatives, is a questionable decision.
    I look forward to reading your new posts as well as your archive. Please don't take my comments as a personal attack. As noted, I am a Safety Geek and I miss few opportunities to encourage safety. -C.